By Eckhart Tolle
We are talking about a deeper gratitude. There are more superficial forms of gratitude, and that is not what we are talking about. By that I mean, to be grateful that someone else is worse off than you are…sometimes that is a source of gratitude.
People say “Oh I really should be grateful, because look at this person – they are worse off than I am, so I should be grateful.” That’s not the true gratitude, that’s the gratitude that is arrived at through thinking, where you compare yourself to others.
The deeper gratitude is not arrived at through some conceptual process, where you explain to yourself why you should be grateful. That’s a superficial form of gratitude, that’s not really what it is, that’s ultimately to do with ego.
More fundamental than the true form of gratitude is the deep sense of appreciation. It’s not to do with what you are telling yourself in your head, it’s something that you sense in the present moment, it’s an appreciation of the “is-ness” of this moment.
We are using words as pointers. When I say “appreciation”, some people might ask “What do you mean by appreciation?” It’s to feel that the world around you is alive, and you share in the aliveness of the world that surrounds you. There’s the outer aliveness, in other human beings, even in your surroundings – whether it’s nature, or even in a room, you sense the aliveness of what’s around you at this moment, through your own aliveness. And with that comes the feeling, “it’s good to be alive”. You appreciate the many forms of life that are arising at this moment. You don’t impose judgment on the form that life takes at this moment, because the form that life takes changes continuously around you – one moment you’re here, the next moment you’re somewhere else.
It’s a deep sense of Being-ness, or aliveness, and through that you appreciate what is, in your life. And by saying “in your life”, it always means in the present moment, because apart from the present moment, there is no such thing as “your life”. If there’s something else there that’s not the present moment that you call “your life”, it’s a mental construct.
You have formed an image of “me” and “my life”, it’s a story, and you mistake that for your life. Fundamentally your life is whatever form this moment takes. Your life is always what is now. That’s your life. Not some story you’re telling yourself in your head.
Through that appreciation, you are sensing a sense of Oneness with what’s outside and what’s inside. There is no longer a separation that is created by excessive conceptual thinking between other people and the self, the separation is created by judgment. There is a sense of allowing the present moment to be as it is. All these are fundamental aspects of gratitude. It’s that openness to the ‘is-ness’ of this moment. With that openness, comes an appreciation for the “is-ness” of this moment. There is no longer a denial or a rejection of what is, because you have some story in your mind that clashes with what is around you at this moment. And that’s how many people live, so they go through life continuously, there’s a clash between their ideas of what should be now, and what is ‘now’.
The greatest form of suffering and frustration and non-fulfillment is the clash between the mental story of what “should” be and what is. That’s really the root of the madness. There cannot be gratitude when that operates in your life.
When something seemingly negative happens, people may find it very hard to say “Okay, I should be grateful, even for this”. I’m not saying you should do that, because even that is an idea in your head. It’s better to forget about trying to be grateful when something seemingly negative happens, and simply let go of the mental judgment of it, and say “This is what is, this is what happened, and this is the situation now”. If you can be free of mental judgment and denial or projection, complaining, and so on… just allow what is, and then something deeper emerges, even in a seemingly negative situation.
By coming into this place of acceptance, of the inevitable ‘is-ness’ of now, your inner state is no longer ultimately dependent on what is happening or not happening outside. That is a vital transformation of consciousness, where the external world no longer determines your state of consciousness.
So when something seemingly bad happens, say “this is”. Whether it is a small thing or a large thing, be open to that. If you’re open to the ‘is-ness’ of what is, something within you which we could call “peace” arises. Sometimes it’s very subtle, and you can’t notice it at first.
You’re not grateful for the seemingly bad thing, but you’re grateful that you can still be at peace, even in this situation. Internally you feel that by accepting, peace arises. Even in seemingly bad circumstances. And what is that peace? It’s an inner sense of aliveness, being-ness, presence. It’s the source of all gratitude.
There can be gratitude even when something bad happens. Not for the bad, but for the fact that even in the face of something seemingly negative, there is still peace in the background. But you won’t find that until you first accept what is.
Gratitude is very important. It transforms your whole life, if you can remember the importance of being grateful for life. As you go through your day, every day, you can even have little reminders – of the importance of being appreciative of life.
Every person has to verify for themselves, what can I be grateful for at this moment?
Sense the being that you are – not just the physical, but the sense of your own presence. That’s a great source of joy, to feel your own presence, it cannot really be defined. That’s the ultimate gratitude.